Embrace the Shadows

They’re everywhere – peachy coloured, backlit portraits of redheads and brides, shot on Kodak Portra 400, over-exposed by 5 stops and metered for the shadows. These images have become, in analogue photography, what HDR is to digital… I don’t even know the word? What’s so hackneyed and worn-out that it goes beyond cliché? This method of shooting colour negative film has become so prevalent that it now seems to be the default, photographers ‘shooting at box speed’ has become the minority.

I don’t like that sun-kissed, creamy-toned look to my portraits, I want the finished image to be a faithful representation of whatever it was I saw, this is why I also only use standard lenses on my cameras and rarely wide or telephoto optics. Shadows are important to me; losing the shadows is like taking the bass out of music – can you imagine Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” without the bass? Don’t.
For these portraits of my friend, Rob, I metered for the highlights and mid-tones and shot at box speed – in this case, Fuji Pro 400H. I have been using Kodak Portra 400 for a few years, but I recently decided it was time for a change – I’m finding 400H a lot more pleasing.

If you managed to read all of this, but still don’t know what I’m babbling on about, just Google ‘overexposed kodak portra’ and hit an image search…


  1. Gotcha, the Pastel editorial look. Initially I was quite against it but I got a soft spot for flatter images under the Mediterranean sun. Anyhow, Portra is quite natural looking and at 320 it doesn’t go crazy airy; It’s also a scanning thing, with Frontiers and Noritsu lifting density. I’m happy to have a UK lab that can do HiRes TIFFs out of 120 negs, and saves some hellish V600 time!

    Should be E6 penitence time!

    I really like the portrais er, specially the last shot with the surrounding darkness and the straight shot with the wall in the back. I realised that I lack some decent potos of myself and should try to have a hand at selfportrait MF, hah


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